This Fourth of July holiday millions of motorists will use America’s multimodal network of highways, bridges, bike trails and railways to make trips to vacation destinations across the country. Keeping the nation’s vast surface transportation network operating safely and efficiently requires a major investment. In a three-part special report series titled, “Another Way to Pay,” AASHTO Transportation TV examines the Road Usage Charge (RUC), a mileage-based fee for all road users being explored by several states as an alternative to the traditional motor- fuel tax.
“People are driving more alternative-fueled vehicles and higher mileage cars and trucks, and that means that local, state and federal governments will potentially collect fewer fuel taxes,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “AASHTO has developed a matrix of funding and financing options that include road user charges—among more than 30 choices Congress can consider to fund surface transportation projects. We’ve got to explore these options sooner rather than later.”
Congress, through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act, authorized $95 million over five years to fund large-scale RUC pilot studies by states or groups of states. The Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) grant program is testing user-based revenue mechanisms that might someday become an alternative to a fuel tax.
In FY 2016, $14.2 million in STSFA grants were provided to RUC projects in California, Oregon, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington and Delaware which applied on behalf of the I-95 Corridor Coalition. Transportation TV explores the importance of this funding and research. In 2015 Oregon became the first state to set up a tax program for road user charges called OReGo. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began testing RUC this year through a program called the Road Charge Pilot.
Caltrans Executive Director Malcolm Dougherty tells Transportation TV, “We want to look at the technical aspect of it. We also need to look at the revenue and public receptiveness of it and then work through any equity issues involved. While the gas tax is still an important revenue generator today, we know moving forward it is not sustainable.” Jennifer Cohan, secretary of the Delaware DOT, tells Transportation TV that RUC is also being explored on the East coast.
“There are five states along the I-95 corridor that are looking into different levels of pilots and planning,” said Cohen. “We think this corridor approach is getting more bang for our buck because some states are doing just some planning. Some states like Delaware and Pennsylvania are working to create pilots.”
The Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute: An AASHTO Center for Excellence has created a dedicated web page containing comprehensive information about RUC programs across the country. Visit the website and watch Transportation TV’s three-part special report, “Another Way to Pay,” to learn how state DOTs are leading the way — studying and in the case of Oregon, implementing a RUC program.